Scrapes are opening up and young bucks are chasing throughout the Northwest
While unseasonably cold weather had deer moving better last week, the Northwest's mild fall conditions have prevailed this week and slowed some of that action. The rut is definitely beginning to kick off in northeastern Washington, though nocturnal tendencies prevail with older age-class bucks. Baiting — legal in The Evergreen State — is beginning to bring some 3 1/2-year-old bucks around, with the occasional 4 1/2-year-old appearing in areas with less human traffic. Most of these visits are occurring during nighttime hours, though the occasional buck is arriving at the very edges of legal shooting hours. Deep-woods hunters pursuing deer near the Canada border are reporting occasional mature bucks on camera, though these appearances remain sporadic. Timing is excellent to see a good deal of daytime movement when archery season commences in mid-November in most northeastern units. All indications point to rutting activities sparking on schedule, despite a slow start this fall.
I have begun noticing scrapes opening up and more rubs appearing in my neck of the woods in northern Idaho. Where there were no scrapes as of a week or week and a half ago, they are appearing in spots traditionally holding major signboard scrapes used by all ages and sexes.
Around home and while driving country roads I am definitely beginning to see more does and young bucks on the move. Returning from running trail cams last Friday I almost hit a doe being chased by a young 4x4 buck. He disregarded me and looked pretty determined, though the doe wanted nothing to do with him. Warmer weather brought reduced mature-buck traffic at my other camera sites, even on important feeding spots like under apples trees (which are dropping in a big way right now).
I fully expect things to open up in the coming week, as the weekend is scheduled to arrive with heavy rains, and temperatures cooling considerably after those fronts pass (this applies to eastern Washington as well). If you have the time, early next week will be time well spent on stand. You just never know this time of year. Though mature buck movement is somewhat slow, a buck could appear beneath your stand at any moment this time of year. Things will usually open up hugely around November 10-13, so prepare.
Now is really a good time to be earmarking concentrations of does, because those groups will draw the first randy bucks in the coming weeks. Movement patterns only become more sporadic as the real rut begins.
Central and eastern Montana whitetail hunters are beginning to see a lot of new scrapes, and several mature bucks have actually been observed working scrapes during daylight hours. No serious chasing activity has yet been noted — save for the usual eager youngsters — but if you're a Big Sky bowhunter you should be spending as much time on stand as humanly possible right now. Bucks are out and about establishing pecking orders (the perfect time for light rattling and grunting), and does are growing increasingly nervous, an indication that festivities could bust wide open any day now. Cooling temperatures and threats of snow will also have deer hitting food sources. This weekend should offer the best hunting yet this season.
Hunters in far western Montana are also beginning to see increased activity from area mule deer, with many bucks beginning to arrive from outside normal territories, gathering harems and tending does. Some fighting between mature bucks has also been observed, though deer don't seem to be breeding yet. Whitetails in the same region seem to be slightly behind mule deer, but are certainly beginning to feel their oats.
Outfitters in north-central and central Wyoming are beginning to see serious whitetail movement with the arrival of colder temperatures and snow in some areas — movement based mostly on filling bellies and not actual rut activities. Posting over agricultural fields will be a good bet this weekend and with new stormfronts arriving with the weekend, deer movement should shift into overdrive, so definitely plan on being out if you can manage. Whitetails aren't yet in a rutting mood — pretty much the norm this time of year — with the real party usually getting under way by November 10.
Longtime Realtree.com contributor and archery expert Patrick Meitin lives in Idaho and has bowhunted big game all over the world.
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